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Thursday, February 21, 2013

Process Serving In A Digital Age

Process Serving In A Digital Age - By SOPLF Contributor Tiffany Olson
The legal guidelines for process serving have always been questionable at best. With the absence of federal laws concerning the industry, the entire legal scope of process serving has been left to the states. And while some states have done a better job than others in offering easily discernible rules for serving process, overall, the lack of uniformity among the states has created numerous gray areas at best and a complete jumble at worse. For professional servers, it can be extremely difficult to avoid legal trouble while simultaneously delivering an effective, efficient service.

The digital age has not made this any easier. How do you effectively serve a website like FaceBook or Google? What are the guidelines for serving online entities with no declared physical counterparts? The evolution of technology stretches the already variable rules and creates brand new gray areas to be considered.

But there are also many advantages to this new technology. One particular advantage of note is the use of skiptrace software. Skiptrace software is a set of programs designed to track down a given individual’s current whereabouts. In the process serving community, favorite software and programs include Facebook, Google, IRB, Accurint, Merlin, TLO, Tracers, and Skipmax. Each of these programs has it’s own strengths and weaknesses, but combining the use of two or three in your repertoire will typically be enough to track down your target.

While skip trace software allows servers to locate their targets, the question of the future is whether or not they can be used as an exclusive tool to actually make the serve. In the UK, for now, it would seem the answer is “Yes.” In December of 2012, lawyers in the UK were granted permission to serve a legal suit via Facebook. After more traditionally avenues of serving proved fruitless during a commercial dispute, Justice Nigel Teare gave the green light for a successful serve via the social media giant. This decision could, of course be appealed and overthrown, but for the moment, it seems we have entered a new dimension entirely.

Another major development corresponding with the rise of e-service is the cutting of local government duties, namely those pertaining to civil process. In many small to mid-size towns around the country, sheriff’s offices are getting rid of their entire civil process departments, opening up significantly more available clients to serving companies. Many legal departments are focusing on reducing crime in the face of lowered budgets, resulting in the privatization of more civil duties that have traditionally been performed by local government.

Advanced online databases and search engine optimization are helping serving companies to find and be found by a new host of clients. As the idea of e-service comes into its own, an increasing amount of the industry will be conducted online. The potential exists even now for 100% of the process to be performed remotely, although it will be some time before this becomes common place or even commonly feasible. The digital age has been upon us for some time, and the rules will only continue to change.

About the Author
Tiffany Olson lives in beautiful Northern California. By day she blogs for several small fledgling companies including who specialize in court research, court filing, Red Bluff process serving, onsite medical copying.